When was the First Conveyor Belt Invented?

Conveyor belts have come a long way since their humble beginnings, and you’ll likely find them in countless forms worldwide, no matter the industry.

In many ways, conveyor belts have revolutionized the way in which professionals approach their working environments, from the food and beverage industry to manufacturing and beyond.

If you feel like now is the time for a trip down memory lane, or you’re curious about how the conveyor belt has helped evolve the current manufacturing landscape, you may want to read on for some food for your mind!

Defining the Term

The American inventor Thomas Robbins created a primitive form of a conveyor belt system to transport coal back in the 19th century (1892, to be exact) and is generally regarded as being the first inventor to popularize this particular style of automation. In fact, Robbins developed his conveyor systems to transport ore and coal for none other than Thomas Edison, who owned an ore-milling company at the time.

However, it’s worth noting that attempts at creating automated material transportation systems had been taking place for a long time at this point, and this can be seen by the steam powered systems employed by the British navy. Thus, it’s difficult to define this as the birth of the conveyor belt since it undoubtedly evolved drastically from this point onward.

Interestingly, conveyor belts (in some form at least) predate the industrial revolution, as they were in use on farms in the late 1700s. Bu these earlier systems are a far cry from the high-tech automated offerings of today’s world, especially the 19.3-mile conveyor in Western Australia – indeed the longest straight conveyor on the planet.

In terms of interlinked belts, however, the Bou Craa system reigns as the longest conveyor at a whopping 61 miles long.

Henry Ford

Henry Ford is often credited as the first to implement conveyor belts in the factory line setting – although, in many ways, he capitalized on an already existing form of technology. Still, the conveyor belt was an instrumental part of Ford’s manufacturing legacy, and it was partly responsible for his revolutionizing of mass parts production – a factor that the Ford assembly line is legendary for.

Although the technology has come a long way from the early days of the Ford motor company, the basic concept of its implementation is still being built upon in today’s world; conveyor belt assembly lines are found in industries worldwide, and Ford’s legacy is present in all of them.

Before Ford, though, a Swedish company called Sandvik produced some of the world’s first steel conveyor belts for the coal mining industry.

The B.F. Goodrich Company

The Goodrich company further improved the design of the original conveyor belts with their Mobius strip belt, which was patented in 1957.

The design allowed for increased durability and protection against general wear and tear. However, the modern conveyor belt no longer utilizes this design as materials can be designed with much greater precision, often at the molecular level, i.e., advanced polymer chemistry.

Intralox and the Modular Plastic Belt

In the 1970s, Louisiana based company Intralox patented a design for a modular plastic conveyor belt, perhaps marking the start of the modern era as it’s seen today.

Plastic modular belting is extremely tough, flexible, and easily cleanable, making this particular type a staple in the food and beverage industries, as well as many others in operation today.


Industrial conveyor belts are incredibly advanced today, and plenty of them use IoT technology to carry out their responsibilities.

As digital tech improves, so too will conveyor belt systems the world over. From advanced polymer belts to computerized conveyors, the landscape is only improving, and it looks to stay that way for the foreseeable future.